by Ian Marshall, Editor
Eyebrows were raised in 1996 when the first Grand Finals were staged in Tianjin; in that era both the Men’s World Cup and the inaugural Women’s World Cup started with every player competing in a group phase, each group comprising four players.
The concept of knock-out from the very beginning was quite revolutionary but the format that was used over two decades ago, with the addition of the Mixed Doubles, is the same formula as will be used in Incheon. It has stood the test of time.
Simply from the very start, players have to respond, there is no parachute and there are no matches against players of a lower standard to ease your way into the tournament; every player is a player in form or they would not be present. It’s that simple in a tournament that for the spectator is easy to understand. There are no convoluted rules of qualification; lose and you are a tourist.
Equally, the fact the event takes place over a compact four day period adds to the occasion, every day captures the attention, every day has high drama in a gathering where personal pride is at stake and those who are team mates fight tooth and nail for the top prize.
Nowhere was that illustrated more vividly than with respect to China’s Ding Ning; having been the runner up on three consecutive occasions commencing in 2011 in London, always losing to Liu Shiwen, finally she won in 2015 in Lisbon beating Chen Meng in the final. Always in the title deciding contest, she had faced colleagues but the important factor was she had won a major title that had hitherto proved elusive. It was a personal triumph.
Now in Incheon, more personal triumphs await but for who?
Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals: Seat Reservations